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Burton Hoffman Papers, 1952-1986

Biographical note

Burton Hoffman was born in New York City on June 28, 1929. His family moved to Newport, R.I. when he was a child, and he attended several Newport public schools, including Coddington, Lenthal, and John Clark Schools, before graduating from Rogers High School in 1946.

Hoffman joined the U.S. Army after high school, serving thirteen months, from July 1946 to November 1947, in Inchon, South Korea as a Corporal and Sergeant of the Guard with the 57th Military Police Company, where he was given a citation for helping to control a prison break.

After receiving an honorable discharge from the Army, Hoffman began attending the University of Rhode Island, majoring in English with a minor in political science. While at URI, Hoffman became editor of the student newspaper, and after leaving URI he began working as a journalist, first as a sports editor and daily sports columnist for the Herkimer Evening Telegram, then, in 1953, reporting on local politics and city government for the Elmira Advertiser.

Hoffman moved from New York to Washington, D.C. in 1955, taking a position as a reporter and copy reader for Congressional Quarterly magazine. By October of that year, he had become news editor of the magazine, supervising twenty editors, reporters, and researchers covering the U.S. Congress and national politics.

Hoffman left Congressional Quarterly in 1958 and, for the next fourteen years, held a number of positions at the Washington Star. Beginning as a city desk reporter, Hoffman moved up to positions as copy editor, assistant national editor, world editor, and, finally, assistant managing editor in October 1968. In his work as an editor he directed coverage of major national and international events, and gave him the opportunity to travel while reporting on international events.

Hoffman resigned from the Star in 1972, to become the Press Secretary to R. Sargent Shriver, two weeks after Shriver was chosen to be George McGovern’s running mate in the Presidential election. As one of Shriver's chief aides, Hoffman scheduled press activities and assisted in the planning of campaign arrangements. Following McGovern and Shriver’s loss to incumbent President Richard Nixon in the election, Hoffman returned to journalism in 1973, as the managing editor of the National Journal, becoming editor a few months later.

Hoffman left the National Journal in 1975 for a position as senior aide and advisor to John Brademas, the Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. Hoffman advised Representative Brademas on issues of media relations, legislation, politics, and foreign affairs. In addition to Brademas, Hoffman would often advise members of the Democratic Leadership in general, including Speaker of the House Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill.

While in his position as assistant to the Majority Whip, Hoffman participated in a series of meetings between members of the House of Representatives and legislators in the Soviet Union in 1978-79. He traveled to the Soviet Union with a special House Delegation in April of 1979, meeting with officials of the Soviet Government and the Communist Party, as well as with religious leaders and political dissidents.

Following the defeat of John Brademas in the election of 1980, Hoffman took a job as the Press Secretary to Senator Carl Levin of Michigan. As Press Secretary, he helped develop legislative and political strategy, advised and trained staff members, and wrote drafts of statements and speeches for the Senator. Hoffman became the Administrative Assistant for the Chairman of the Health and Environment Subcommittee of the House, Representative Henry Waxman of California, in 1983.

Hoffman left his positions in the Congress in 1985 to become the Director of Media Relations in Washington for Hill and Knowlton, Inc., advising corporate and government clients. As a Senior Vice President of Hill and Knowlton, Hoffman spent forty-two months in Indonesia, supervising the government’s National Development Information Office and working with cabinet ministers to increase foreign investment and economic development.

He continued to work as a consultant thoughout the 1990s, directing a USAID economic reform program, the Ukraine Social Assistance Program, from 1995-97, and consulting on public education campaigns in Moldova and Ukraine in 1999 and 2000.

Hoffman retired to Newport, R.I. in 1997, and continues to participate in state and local political reform efforts.